Since things are a bit slow around here today (unless you are interested in Zelph), I will take the opportunity to contemplate with you a silly question that has been on my mind from time to time lately: what is a “Utah Mormon”? I started wondering about this a few Sundays back, when a visitor to our Gospel Doctrine class started answering all of the questions with great authority. When I learned that he was from St. George, and I immediately thought, “Oh, it figures. He’s a Utah Mormon.” Then I started wondering how I could identify him as one of this breed.
Here are some possibilities:
1. Utah Mormons are from Utah, either by birth or by adoption. Being a Utah Mormon is primarily about attitude and behavior, but geography is important. If a person exhibits the behaviors associated with Utah Mormons (see below) but was born and raised and resides outside of Utah, well, that person is just obnoxious. She is not a Utah Mormon.
2. Utah Mormons seek opportunities to demonstrate that they are Church insiders, and people who live in the “mission field” are outsiders. These opportunities arise in various ways, but name dropping (“last week, I attended a Solemn Assembly with the First Presidency and the Twelve”) is particularly effective.
3. Utah Mormons simply know more about the Gospel than other Mormons. As a result, they feel compelled to bear their testimony in a ward that they are just visiting, and like the fellow from St. George in my story above, they tend to dominate the discussion in Gospel Doctrine class and Priesthood/Relief Society. Their proclamations rarely contain original insights, but they are offered with great certitude.
4. Utah Mormons often express wonder at the fortitude of the Saints outside of Utah, as if we are still using outhouses as toilets. This seems to be an attempt to ingratiate themselves with their newfound friends, but it usually serves as just another reminder that they are strangers in a strange land.
This is surely not an exhaustive list of attributes and behaviors, but it should be sufficient to prime the pump. Before I leave this to the comments, a few more observations:
* “Utah Mormons” and “Mormons From Utah” are not equivalents. Many of our perma-bloggers and commentators are “Mormons From Utah,” but I suspect that few (if any) are Utah Mormons. Same goes for my wife.
* Many members outside of Utah use the term “Utah Mormons” in reference to members of the Church in Utah who are slack in keeping the commandments. This use of the term is roughly the equivalent of calling someone a hypocrite. In my experience, members in Utah are neither more nor less hypocritical than members elsewhere, so I tend to avoid this usage.
* Finally, I am writing as one who has observed Utah Mormons from outside of Utah. Do Utah wards have Utah Mormons? I have no idea, but I imagine that the attributes of Utah Mormon within Utah is somehow different than those who visit us here in the hinterlands.